- Dr Nupur Gupta, Founder Well Woman Clinic, Director Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute Gurugram
Alcohol may give one a sense of elation for a while but we recommend completely abstain from alcohol for pregnant and lactating women. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is associated with known harmful effects on the baby in the womb.
Let us understand the biochemical response of alcohol in the body. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed in the stomach and distributed throughout the body. In a pregnant woman, alcohol and its toxic metabolites are able to cross the placental barrier into the foetal bloodstream and amniotic fluid.
Babies exposed to alcohol during the prenatal phase of life show neurological disorders with impaired fine motor skills, vision and language incapacities, behavioural disorders such as ADHD, sleeping and feeding disorders, communication difficulties and cognitive disorders such as low intelligence quotient scores (IQ), visual-spatial inabilities and problems in memory.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center reported in an observation study that each week a woman consumes alcohol during the first five to 10 weeks of pregnancy is associated with 8 times higher risk of miscarriage.
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The researchers report that there is no safe amount and no safe limit of alcohol that can be consumed. The risk doesn’t reduce even if she consumes less than one drink each week.
Drinking While Pregnant and risk of fetal alcohol syndrome
Gynecologists, globally, are stringent about advising to avoid alcohol around conception or during pregnancy to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. The effects to the baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome are irreversible and the child may suffer various deformities — physical, neurological, cognitive — that are primarily due to alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Other risks are facial abnormalities, stillbirth, low birth weight, and growth-restricted babies.
Moreover, research shows that one in six pregnancies end in miscarriage and although there is meager information known about how alcohol causes harm during early pregnancy, but it may increase miscarriage risk by modifying hormone patterns, altering the quality of implantation, increasing oxidative stress, or impairing key pathways.
Original research by Alexandra C. Sundermann et al confirms each additional week of alcohol exposure during the first trimester increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, even at low levels of consumption and when excluding binge drinking ( American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, January 2021).
To conclude, it is best to avoid alcohol consumption when planning pregnancy and during pregnancy.